Learning during a Pandemic - A Challenge-A-Day, Week 14(!)
Week 14! This blog is updated daily - usually each evening (Pacific time)
Day 1. Draw a vegetable. No guidance here - do it anyway you like, pen/pencil, paper/notebook/tablet/iPad. After you finish drawing it, take a photograph of your work. Then cook the vegetable (alone, or as an ingredient in a recipe). Does it taste any different having drawn it?
Day 2. Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma - President Trump has announced that his campaign rally will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, rather than Friday, "Juneteenth." Thousands of Trump-supporters are expected to attend, even though cases of Covid-19 are rapidly on the rise in Tulsa. The event is scheduled to take place in an indoor arena, with another indoor area identified for overflow. Vice President Pence will also be in attendance. What is the meaning of Juneteenth? What has historically taken place in Tulsa, OK? Read the article in today's The Guardian, and then make two lists: First, what are the reasons Trump may have chosen Tulsa, and Juneteenth to hold this event? Second, enumerate all of the risks that such an event poses this Saturday in Tulsa during this pandemic. [Note also that while cases are surging, Pence has encouraged governors to announce that those numbers are due to increased testing.]
Day 3. Biography - This challenge has three or four parts. Ask a parent (or any older adult) about math in their life. How would they describe their relationship with mathematics? Then ask them to tell you a story from their childhood that involved math. Finally, ask how that story impacts their life today. If you and they are comfortable doing so, email firstname.lastname@example.org (Carol Bier) - I'll be very interested to learn what you learn.
Day 4. Observing nature - Let's go back to one of our very early challenges about tree identification. Pick a tree in your locale and look at what's green. Does the tree have needles or leaves? Are the needles long and thin, or are they massed and overlapping? If the needles are long, are they in clusters or single? If leafy, do the leaves have a toothed edge or are they smooth? Is there a mid-vein visible? Are other veins visible? Do the two sides of the leaf look the same, or are they different (color; texture). How are the needles or leaves attached to the tree and its branches? What other features of the needles or leaves can you describe? What forms the understory? (That is, what is growing underneath the tree?) Are their grasses? Berries? Leaf duff? How else might you describe the tree's habitat? Look around you, and see how many different textures you can find. How might you describe them?
Day 5. Juneteenth - A celebration of the historic event on June 19, 1865, when slavery was finally ended in the United States. Two-and-a-half years earlier (January 1, 1863), the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln, went into effect; it stated that "all persons held as slaves...henceforward, shall be free." Why do you think it took two and a half years for that to happen? Today's celebrations and recent protests have revealed that despite the end of slavery, racial justice and social equality is still not the norm. Systemic racism has persisted to the present. What are your thoughts about what it is that we should be celebrating today? What are the arguments for making Juneteenth a national holiday? What might you do personally to usher forth a land that really has "liberty and justice for all"?
Weekend Challenge: Summer Solstice - We have reached the longest day of the year/shortest night! [Note: This only is true for north of the equator - what is happening south of the equator? What happens at the equator?] The Summer Solstice occurs this year at 21:43 GMT/UTC. What time would that be where you live? What is GMT? What is UTC? Why do we measure time that way? What is a meridian? How does it relate to spherical geometry? [Why is geometry called geometry? What are the component parts of this word, and its etymology?]. During the celestial annual journey of the Earth round the Sun, the Summer Solstice is the moment when the Sun is at its furthermost point north of the Equator, the "precise moment when the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Cancer, a circle of latitude 23.5 degrees north of Earth’s equator." This is the farthest north the sun ever gets before starting its "descent," as the nights get longer until the Winter Solstice. Here's a great guide to this year's Solstice:
Additional Weekend Challenge: Today is the First Day of Summer! And Father's Day! Daylight begins to shorten until the Winter solstice. What do these days mean to you? Think about today, 6/21/20 - how is today different? What is the same as always?
Day 1. Summer plans - What are your summer plans? Do you have any yet? How do you anticipate this summer will be different from those in recent years? What are your goals? If you don't have goals yet, what ideas are you thinking about? In what constructive ways might you take advantage of our current situation? How will you manage the risks posed by transmission of Covid-19?
Day 2. Defunding the Police - In response to the recognition of too much police brutality in many instances around the country, especially in relation to racial injustice, a new message has taken over some protests, "Defund the Police." But what would that actually look like? Read a useful analysis is today's New York Times "California Today"column. Follow some of the links to see how this is being considered in Los Angeles CA, Eugene OR, and Minneapolis MN. What suggestions might you offer for how best to manage public safety?
Day 3. State-sanctioned Violence - Following up on yesterday's challenge, in the past week we've experienced local curfews, deployment of the National Guard in our nation's capitol, the use of tear gas against peaceful demonstrators by Federal law enforcement, threats of military intervention (by our President!), and humor with a serious intent (such as painting the super-sized "Black Lives Matter" on the street leading up to the White House in Washington DC). To find articles reporting on these instances, do a Google search on each of the above examples of a government's efforts to control protests, and riots and looting that may or may not be associated. What means of crowd control do you think are most effective and why? What other strategies might you suggest to encourage more peaceful nonviolent civil dissent? Think about the meaning of the first words in our Constitution, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." How do you think this might best be achieved?
Day 4. Three months - We are nearing three months of sheltering-in-place during the Covid-19 pandemic. What have you learned about yourself? What good has come of this unplanned experience for you? Are there new things you've done that you enjoyed? Are there thoughts that have engaged you? What new ideas have you considered? Have you found new ways to counter anxiety? What new habits or routines might you want to keep in place for yourself in a post-pandemic world?
Day 5. It's Friday! - Time for a deep breath. And another. And another. Deep breathing helps the body relax, reduces stress, counters anxiety, builds lung capacity, and strengthens immunity. We all need that these days! You may enjoy going back to the 5 Shaolin Qi Gong exerciseswe did - how many months ago?!? I encourage you again to do them with your parents -- they need these benefits, too!
Weekend challenge: Today is Day 90 of our challenges. Look back over all of them, and see if there are any you'd like to take on that you may have missed. You'll find links to previous challenges below.
Additional weekend challenge: What is the relationship between public health and mental health? How might you go about finding out? How would you begin your effort? In what ways do you think Covid-19 has made this relationship more complicated?
For weeks 15-16, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/06/22/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day-week-15
For weeks 1-5, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/24/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day
For weeks 6-7, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/29/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day
For weeks 8-9, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/05/06/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day
For weeks 10-12, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/06/03/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day
There are challenges I have endeavored to write for my grandchildren (14, 16, 17), geared to middle school/high school. The questions may have relevance beyond, and I've shared them as well with neighbors, friends, and relatives, encouraging them to be distributed to those who may find them challenging, engaging, and beneficial during these perilous times. I know some of the questions have been adapted for a 4-year old in Chicago, for a fifth-grade class in Oakland CA, working online, and for a college class in New Haven, as well as for several children who are being home-schooled during this hiatus of normalcy. Several adults have enjoyed them as well! Some of the challenges will work to generate dinner table conversations, too! We are all in this together!
Although numbered by week/day, the challenges may be used in no particular order (except those for which there is a sequential question). Each one is designed to take 1-2 hours; collectively, they are intended to be interdisciplinary, and to stimulate creative and critical thinking. Some require Internet research, or use of iPhone/Android or iPad. Kids may work together or separately, and they may call an adult or other friend for clarification or to discuss search strategies. Hints might be offered as a second step.